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With "The Industrialist" released in early June earlier this year we saw Fear Factory go on without the rest of the Mechanize crew. Missing mainly percussionist powerhouse and metal legend Gene Hoglan as well as long-time bass player Byron Stroud. This means Burton and Dino composed and engineered this album all by themselves. And for a back to the basics album like "The Industrialist" these two members are more than enough to convey the music and themes present in the album.
The first song on the album is also the title track. Do you remember the title track on previous album "Mechanize"? If not, I can tell you that this song is similar in structure with an industrial/mechanical sample in the beginning of the song leading into the onslaught of Dino's tight riffs and Burton's screaming. The only difference between these tracks are that Burton has his own little spoken word monolouge dealing with the topic of religion in the very first minute of this song. It doesn't take long before the tight-as-hell rhythm guitar riffage of Dino kicks in with the programmed drum tracks interlocked beneath. The drums have the same overall sound as they did on "Mechanize", but you can clearly tell they are digitalized/synthetic this time around. If you've been missing out on Dino's riffage on former seminal Fear Factory tracks like "Christploitation", "Self-Bias Resistor" or even "Corporate Cloning". You will be pleased to hear that the dissonant and robotic machine-gun style riffage is back as intense as it has always been. Dino plays a few solos here and there on the album just like he did on "Mechanize". But the main melodic components of the album are still his guitar leads and the catchy synths/keyboards of Rhys Fulber. Burton is back in top shape just like he proved on "Mechanize", his screaming is full of rage and passion and this might just be his best harsh vocal performance to date. His clean vocals, although obviously enhanced and altered through the use of protools and other assets. Sound majestic and catchy as hell on tracks like "New Messiah" and "Depraved Mind Murder". He really gets to stretch his melodic vocal lines over Dino's chords on the refrains of songs like these, giving the songs memorability and lasting value. Some fans have complained that Dino and Burton copied and pasted from the compositions of "Mechanize" in both riffs and keyboards/samples. I beg to differ, and although I will admit there are some striking similarities between a few segments on both albums. There are hardly any riffs, vocal melodies or industrial samples that sound straight up plagiarized from past releases.
The concepts and themes of The Industrialist harken back to the days of "Obsolete" and "Demanufacture". The science fiction elements are back in place, just as they were in the good old days of Fear Factory. The lyrics still deal with topics like violence, religion and the hypocrisy of modern society. Albeit in the first person perspective of an automaton attempting to become more like a human being. I think there are some notable highlights on this album like the intense instrumental punishment of the riffs and drum parts of "The Industrialist". The epic, almost serenading chorus of "New Messiah" is another keeper for sure. Check out the syncopated double bass work and interesting lead playing in the refrain of "Depraved Mind Murder". Burton's singing sounds amazing on this track even though he doesn't really deviate from his usual singing style. It works wonders for the band when their skillful performances match their memorable songwriting. There is a heavy as all hell track near the end of the album called "Disassemble". I've always admired how Fear Factory can write mechanical music that is just as heavy as death metal, but doesn't spiral out of control into a cacophonous mess. This track is so damn heavy you feel like you are on a conveyor belt about to become ripped apart and stomped flat by vicious machines wielding razor blades and huge anvils.
There are a few unremarkable and lame moments on "The Industrialist". The single "Recharger" never really grabbed me because I felt the song was too calculated and formulaic. The riffs in the verse of the song are too repetitive and predictable and Burton's melodic lines don't really push any boundaries or remain in your memory for long. The fourth song titled "God Eater" starts off pretty cool with brassy keys and a piano part bringing to mind the intro of "Christploitation". The song gains some momentum in the verse as the downtuned riffage begins with Burton's lyrics shouted over it. Too bad "God Eater" is one or two minutes too long as the repetition really got out of hand and the song just turned into background music.
Overall, this is a good if not great release by Fear Factory. I'm still hoping they can one day make amends with their former band mates Wolbers and Herrera, add them into the line-up once again and tap into the same brilliance present on their masterpiece "Demanufacture". Until then however, the Fear Factory we hear on "The Industrialist" will be more than sufficient.